ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

AM As everybody by now knows, the human rights commission is being set up not on account of the pinpricks of Amnesty International, but because of pressure from American congressional bodies. The senators and congressmen, Bush republicans as much as arch Democratic reactionaries from the south, are, never mind the events taking place in their own backyards, great ones for human rights. Our government is under orders from that direction to constitute a human rights commission. This will not mean the least difference to the ground realities. The army and the police will continue to be on the rampage all over the country REMEMBER 1987 arid the assembly poll in Tripura? This time, the Congress party was determined not to lose the elections in the state. The Left Front was formally in control of the state administration for nine years; its principal constituent had a formidable organisational base; the incumbent chief minister, a major part of whose political career was spent to rouse the social consciousness of Tripura's tribal masses, was known for his simple living and personal integrity. In view of this formidable combination of factors, it was evidently an uphill task for the Congress to stage a comeback in the state. Was not the party, however, in effect, the government of India? What is the point of being so if the electoral fortunes could not be swung in the party's favour even in a puny little state like Tripura? A way thus had to be found, and was found. All of a sudden, there was a mystifying escalation of insurgency activities, the incidence of murders and arson rose abnormally, tion- tribal people, men, women and children, began to be butchered, in very large numbers, in sporadic but numerous incidents, in the remoter parts of the state. The centre would have been failing in its duty under Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution if it did not do something drastic to restore law and order. Without consultation with, or concurrence of, the state government, the provis-ons of the Disturbed Areas Act were clamped on the state, troops moved in, a union minister of state was assigned the task of overseeing the peace-restoring operations of the army. Rest assured, it was the sheerest coincidence that this gentleman also happened to be the functionary designated by the ruling party at the centre to conduct its election campaign in Tripura. He sandwiched the two roles. Installing himself in Agartala, he started issuing orders and instructions to assorted government functionaries. The state chief minister dis covered to his consternation that his writ had ceased to run, it was a de facto military dispensation, and army personnel took their cue not from him, but from the central minister The military were, for all practical purposes, also asked to assume the overall responsibility for the conduct of the assembly elections; that was, it was explained, necessary and inevitable, given the abnormal conditions prevailing in the state. Such bandobast notwithstanding, the Left Front could not be prevented from securing a majority of the votes cast. That did not matter though. In a select number of constituencies, military personnel were extraordinarily active on election day to chaperon some voters to the polling booths; according to rumour, they were seen to chaperon the same set of voters a number of times to the polling booths; this was no doubt for making it double or triple sure that, despite the overt threat from the insurgents, the citizens of Tripura could exercise their franchise freely and without intimidation. To compensate for this slight over-zealousness, the army at the same time saw to it that some other voters were positively discouraged from reaching the polling booths. Army personnel were equally active on the day the votes were counted. The counting centres were taken over by military and paramilitary forces; they themselves were, officially designated electoral officers discovered, without a profession on that day; army people took over the duties of sorting and counting the ballot papers. In the case of at least one constituency, the electoral officer had declared the result and gone home; conscientious military officers hauled him back from his residence at dead of night and persuaded him to rescind the result declared earlier and announce a fresh one, this time naming a different winner. The denouement was, as Nero Wolfe would have commented to Archie Goodwin, satisfactory. The Congress party registered a famous victory: it squeaked through, with a two-seat majority in the sixty- member assembly. Miracle of miracles, insurgency activities, which had continued in full swing throughout the period of campaign and right till election eve, came to a dead halt the day the Congress ministry took the oath of office. It was a remarkable double success for the central minister despatched to restore law and order in Tripura and, simultaneously, to shepherd the local party through the elections.

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